Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It is now February and the Spurs have a 42-8 record. It has been an enjoyable ride these past 50 games. But with regards to the Spurs offense, would they benefit from more scoring at the rim and in the paint? I would bring you to the attention of one player, who in the past, has been a highflyer, catching passes from the likes of Jason Kidd, dunking and scoring the ball with brilliant cuts to the rim, Richard Jefferson.
It has come to the attention of many a Spurs fan that Richard Jefferson's improvement, especially from beyond the 3-point line, has netted the Spurs many victories. When it comes to crunch time, the 3-point shot has been almost automatic. However, is that all Richard Jefferson can do? If all Richard Jefferson is relegated to is being a 3-point shooter and jump shooter, does he really warrant the 4-year, $40 million contract? Surely, there is more he can bring to the table. Otherwise, the Spurs may have as well signed a 3-point specialist at the SF spot to fill in for Richard Jefferson to shoot 3s.
Now, if Richard Jefferson has another option to go to, like the chance to slash to the rim off the ball and not primarily be a 3-point shooter, could it improve the Spurs offense? For the record, 78% of Richard Jefferson's shot attempts come from jump shooting. By comparison, 80% of George Hill's shot attempts are jump shots and 96% of Gary Neal's shot attempts are jump shots. Wouldn’t Jefferson be more of a difference maker in the rotation with stats like that if he were attacking the rim more often?
With all the talk about Richard Jefferson's improved efficiency shooting the ball, where has his offense near the rim gone? Free throw shooting attempts have dipped from 3.5 per game to 2.7 per game from last season to this season. Shot attempts have also dipped slightly from 9.6 to 9.0. Where is Richard Jefferson's reward for his improved efficiency? Is there a reason why Gary Neal is taking more shot attempts than Richard Jefferson on a per minute basis?
With that said, it is important that we look through what the Spurs and Richard Jefferson can do to open up space inside. The alley-oop play has been a potent weapon for the Spurs to utilize, but the baseline cut from Jefferson has been missing this season. Richard Jefferson has been more than happy to showcase his new-found range from the 3-point line and not cut to the rim, so as not to affect spacing. As the saying goes, 3 points is worth more than 2. Of course, it would be easier for Jefferson to put the ball in on a lay-up than a 3-point attempt, but he chooses not to do so in order for the Big 3 to have more space to with which to work.
Living and dying by the 3 is an option. But if there are other viable options, such as Richard Jefferson's ability as a finisher, wouldn’t the Spurs be wise to take advantage of it? Making him just a jump shooter is really a waste of talent and not maximizing his ability to be an off-ball threat in every area of the court, particularly near the rim.
It is never over watching Spurs basketball, making new observations everyday. Let's hear what you think.
Monday, February 7, 2011
by Radoslav Komljenovic
With the midway point of the season having come and gone and the Rodeo Road Trip underway, the Spurs sit atop the league standings at 42-8.
Just how good these Spurs are is an open debate. But their record is so gaudy that it puts them on pace for 69 wins. How rare is that? So rare that only the ‘71-‘72 Lakers and ‘96-’97 Bulls have had as many wins to end the regular season and only the ‘95-‘96 Bulls have ended with more (72).
Barring a rash of significant injuries or a collapse of epic proportions, it's safe to say the West should be wrapped up. The Spurs have a seven game lead over the second place Mavericks, have eight fewer losses than the third place and reigning champion Lakers and sport a four game lead over the Celtics, who own the second best record in the league.
While it remains to be seen how they'll finish, this much is certain: The Spurs can no longer be considered a second tier contender, but rather the class of the league.
Friday, February 4, 2011
by Scott Pieper
Spurs 89 – Lakers 88
It was starting to seem like one of those kind of nights. Having played 15 seasons in the League, Antonio McDyess had seen the signs before: shots that rattle halfway down the chute before popping out; rebounds that careen directly into the opponent's hands; arguments that fall on deaf ears. Coming fresh off a disappointing loss in Portland, the lights of Staples Center were shining bright, the Lakers had just surged into the lead, and it looked like another letdown was in the works.
Then, after a night of tough calls and bad breaks, the veteran journeyman gathered his legs, leapt, and took his vindication with one soft, subtle tap.
“It bounced off, kind of like slow motion, and I was able to get my hand up,” said McDyess, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
The spontaneous smile on the otherwise stoic Gregg Popovich (in victory) said it all. Antonio McDyess' 0.2 tip-in as time expired snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the Spurs topped their perennial top rival, Lakers, 89-88 in a closely fought encounter — of the meaningless regular season kind. Coach Pop isn’t one to give into emotion of satisfaction or happiness during games, anger and passion is quite a different story. But even he could not restrain himself from giving a guffaw of immense satisfaction after seeing his veteran free agent signing of 2009 outwork the lengthy Laker frontcourt and grab yet another offensive rebound to tip victory into the Spurs favor.
The interesting aspect about McDyess' final tip was that, it wasn't surprising. As Buck Harvey of San Antonio Express points out, he had provided key offensive rebounds in the final possessions after misses by Ginobili, Parker and finally Duncan. And it fit the pattern that has become of the Spurs’ season — no longer are they a three horse, one stallion team. The Spurs are beating their competition by committee with a rejuvenated Richard Jefferson, a meteoric McDyess and the lesser but equally effective play of the gangling George Hill and gunning Gary Neal. And the final possession epitomised it — misses by the Big 3 in recent history would have been curtains for the Spurs, but not necessarily this season.